Jezebel (Hebrew: אִיזָבֶל, Greek Ίεζάβελ or Iezabel, not exalted) (m. <= 927-r. 918-884BC by Ussher or m. <= 883-r. 874-843 by Thiele) was Ahab's queen and perhaps the more influential and dangerous of the two named women of the House of Omri.
Jezebel was the daughter of King Ithobal I of Tyre. The Bible gives no clue to her date of birth. She married Ahab at least nine years before he acceded to the throne of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, because their daughter Athaliah was born at that time; she might, however, have married him earlier. She bore Ahab at least two of his seventy sons, named Ahaziah and Jehoram.
She would later prove that she knew much about the history of the Northern Kingdom by making reference to a pre-Omride king, Zimri. But that knowledge would do her little good.
Reign of Ahab
By all accounts in the Bible, Queen Jezebel was, more than any other single person, responsible for the introduction of the worship of Baal from her native Tyre to the Northern Kingdom, and eventually even to the Southern. Her influence in the Southern Kingdom was largely through the marriage of her daughter Athaliah to the future King Jehoram of Judah in the eleventh year of Ahab's reign.
Perhaps at that same time, or a year later, Jezebel began a campaign to find, arrest, and execute all prophets of the true God. But Obadiah, the palace steward, hid two groups of fifty prophets in a location that was never disclosed.
Jezebel v. Elijah
Shortly afterward, the prophet Elijah staged a massive demonstration on Mount Carmel, in which he challenged the prophets of Baal to summon fire from heaven to burn up a sacrifice to Baal, while Elijah would do the same for a sacrifice to God. Elijah won that demonstration and then ordered everyone present to seize the prophets of Baal, drag them to the Kidron brook, and execute them summarily. Jezebel heard about this from Ahab, who rode straight to her summer palace in Jezreel to tell her.She sent this message to Elijah:
May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them. I_Kings 19:2
Elijah fled, and Jezebel might have thought that that was the last that she would ever hear of Elijah, or of any threat to her position. She could not have been more mistaken.
In the twentieth year of her husband's reign, Jezebel learned that Ahab wanted to buy a vineyard on a parcel of choice land near Samaria. Naboth, the owner, refused to sell. So Jezebel arranged for Naboth to be arrested, tried, convicted, and executed by stoning, on a false charge of blasphemy against God and the king—an ironic charge indeed, in view of her history.
If she heard the dire prophecy that Elijah then delivered to Ahab, or even that part of it that concerned her, the Bible nowhere indicates that she gave a sign.
Reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram
When Ahab died, Jezebel made sure that her influence did not die with him. She continued to influence her two sons who successively inherited the kingdom. Her influence over Jehoram was somewhat less, however, in that he put away the image of Baal that Ahab had made, which Ahaziah probably would not have done.
DeathIn 884 BC (or 841 BC), General Jehu carried out a military coup against Jehoram and killed him, and also killed Jezebel's grandson Ahaziah. Jehu then rode straight to Jezreel to confront Jezebel. Jezebel painted her face, put on her crown, and looked out through a window. When she caught sight of Jehu, she asked,
Jehu did not answer directly; instead, he called for volunteers (of whom three thrust out their heads at another window) and said, "Throw her down." They did, and when she had fallen to the ground, Jehu ran over her with his chariot. When at length Jehu's servants went back to recover her remains, they found nothing left but her skull and the metatarsal and metacarpal bones. Everyone present recalled that Elijah had specifically predicted that dogs would eat her flesh.
New Testament reference
In the letter to the "angel," or messenger, of the church in Thyatira, Jesus warns them against "tolerating" a woman named "Jezebel" who taught people to commit various sins. Some commentators regard this second Jezebel as not a literal person, but rather a metaphor for church and government leaders who avoid requiring holiness, or separation from evil, and thus allow grace and soul liberty to turn into license. Other commentators suggest that the second Jezebel is a code name for an actual person, or a type of person, found in the historical church in Thyatira in ancient Asia Minor and in general guilty of offenses comparable, though perhaps not to the same degree, to those of the historical Jezebel.
In popular culture
The character name Jezebel appears in multiple works of science fiction and cinema, and in many other contexts too numerous to list here. All of them have to do with either great evil, social scandal, or simply willful behavior, on the part of a woman. Atkinson suggests a reason for this: that Jezebel is a type for any wicked person or institution that presents a false and/or cosmetically adorned face to the world in order to deceive others as to his, her, or its true motives.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 515, 534
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 263-265
- Atkinson, Jay. "Jezebel." The Latter-Rain Page. Retrieved June 19, 2007.
- I_Kings 18:1-46
- I_Kings 21:1-15
- II_Kings 3:1-2
- II_Kings 9:32-34
- II_Kings 9:35-36